RAF Timeline 1980 -1989

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Battle of Britain Memorial Flight 13 Sep 1980 - RAF Coltishall stages an air show to mark the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Coltishall was chosen for the event because at the time it was the home of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and the only Battle of Britain station still in operational use with the RAF.

2 Dec 1980 - The first Chinook HC1 helicopters for use by the RAF are officially handed over in a ceremony at RAF Odiham.


Chinook HC1
4 Aug 1981
- No 18 Squadron reforms at Odiham as the first RAF heavy transport helicopter unit. Equipped with Chinook HC1s, the unit is the first to operate the type.


Tornado GR1

2 Apr 1982 - The Argentinean invasion of the Falklands Islands in the South Atlantic begins.

6 Jan 1982 - The first Tornado GR1, ZA586, enters service with No. 9 Sqn, RAF Honington. The Tornado was the most important equipment programme of its time, as the aircraft would become the mainstay of the RAF in the fighter, bomber and reconnaissance roles.

22 Jun 1982 - The first VC10 K2, ZA141, flew at Filton after conversion to the tanker role. The aircraft was converted by British Aerospace from a VC10 Series 1101 airliner of Gulf Air. 23 airframes were to be converted to K2 and K3 standard to augment the RAF's Victor K2 tanker force. Vulcan B2

31 Dec 1982 - The last of the 'big bomber' aircraft left RAF service today, when No 44 Squadron disbanded. They were the last Squadron to operate the Avro Vulcan in its original bomber role, only the 6 tankers of 50 Squadron remained after this.


Hawk T1a January 1983 - A contract was issued to British Aerospace to modify 88 Hawk T1 aircraft to T1A standard. These aircraft were to carry sidewinder missiles and a centre-line cannon pod to operate in the secondary air defence role as part of a mixed fighter force within the UK Air Defence Region.

April 1983 - The first RAF Chinooks deploy to Akrotiri in Cyprus to support the British forces in Lebanon as part of the UN organisation there. The helicopters, from Nos 7 and 18 Squadrons, were rotated in theatre until September 1984, when the British force was withdrawn.

Tornado with Alarm missile July 1983 - The ALARM anti-radiation missile was ordered for the RAF, intended for use with the Tornado strike attack Squadrons. The missile is an advanced defence suppression weapon, forcing enemy radar sites to stop transmitting, or be destroyed.


Vulcan tanker March 1984 - No 50 Squadron disbands at RAF Waddington. Using the aircraft in the tanker role, they were the last RAF unit to operate the Avro Vulcan. Their six aircraft, designated K2, were converted to tankers to support operations in the South Atlantic during the Falklands War.

Phantom F4j November 1984 - No 74 Squadron reforms at Wattisham with the delivery of the first of the F4J Phantoms, given the RAF designation Phantom F3. The new fighter Phantoms are ex-US Navy aircraft designed to fill the gap in the UK Air Defence capability, created by the need to provide full time cover on the Falklands, until the full deployment of the Tornado F3.


Phantom F4js in the Falklands 12 May 1985 - The new RAF airfield at Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands was opened by His Royal Highness Prince Andrew. The airfield is much larger than the original one at Port Stanley, and was built to allow large transport aircraft and jet fighter aircraft to operate easily from the islands. Work on the site continued, and the airfield was declared fully operational on 1 May 1986.


8 Jan 1986 - The Marine Branch of the RAF is disbanded during a ceremony at RAF Mount Batten.

24 Mar 1986 - The first Lockheed Tristar KC1 tanker-transport, ZD953, is delivered to the RAF in a ceremony at Marshalls of Cambridge, the company responsible for the conversion of the aircraft from civil airliners.

Tristar June 1986 - No 78 Squadron was reformed at Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands to become the resident helicopter unit. The Squadron was formed out of No 1310 Flight (Chinooks), and No 1564 Flight (Sea Kings).

21 Nov 1986 - The first ever RAF air-to-air refuelling of a fully-loaded passenger carrying transport aircraft was carried out on a trooper flight to Oman as part of Exercise Saif Sareea The receiver was a VC10 C Mk 1 of No 10 Squadron carrying 129 troops, the tanker was a VC10K of 101 Squadron. The refuelling took place over Sicily as part of the 4,200 mile, 9½ hour flight. Nimrod AEW

18 Dec 1986 - The ill-fated Nimrod Airborne Early Warning project is finally cancelled after numerous delays and setbacks. In its place, 6 (later changed to 7) Boeing E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft are ordered.


April 1987 - A VC10 of No 101 Squadron set a new record for non-stop flying time between Australia and the UK. The 9,000 miles were were covered in 16 hours and 1½ minutes, beating the previous record, held by a Vulcan also of 101 Squadron, by 2 hours 4½ minutes.

Harrier GR5 July 1987 - The RAF received its first Harrier GR5, ZD324, from the British Aerospace airfield at Dunsfold. 62 of the larger, longer-ranged aircraft are on order for the RAF.

July 1987 - Two Phantoms of No 74 Squadron set a new record for a flight from London to Edinburgh on the 70th anniversary of the formation of the unit. The flight was made in 27 mins 3.75 secs over the 340 miles, the aircraft flying off the east coast at a maximum speed of 1,150 mph. Both the Phantom and the Lightning were being replaced by the Tornado F3 from this year onward.

29 Squadron Tornados 24 Sep 1987 - A Tornado F3, ZE155, from Boscombe Down, made the first non-stop un-refuelled crossing of the Atlantic by a British jet fighter. The sortie covered 2,200nms in 4 hr 45 min, and took place as the aircraft returned from Arizona after a series of tropical trials.


Tornado and Lightening 30 Apr 1988 - After almost 30 years of RAF service, the last Lightnings are retired from duty with Nos. 5 and 11 Sqns at RAF Binbrook.

July 1988 - A massive Search and Rescue (SAR) operation is launched following the Piper Alpha oil rig disaster in the North Sea. This was one of the most intensive operations ever launched by RAF air-sea rescue units.

August 1988 - 28 Squadron Wessex took part in operations from their base at Sek Kong in Hong Kong to rescue local villagers from a rapidly rising flood following a typhoon.

Tucano 1 Sept 1988 - The first Shorts Tucano was handed over to the Central Flying School at RAF Scampton. 130 of the type are on order for the RAF.

December 1988 - The RAF Fire School moved from Catterick to Manston, becoming the RAF Fire Service Central Training Establishment (RAF FSCTE) and providing a single training school for all RAF service and civilian firefighters. 2 Squadron Jaguars

16 Dec 1988 - The last sortie was flown by a Jaguar based in Germany, ending 13 years of Jaguar operations as part of the RAF in Germany. The aircraft belonged to No II(AC) Squadron, which reformed on the Tornado GR1A in the reconnaissance role in January 1989.


8 Jan 1989 - Two RAF Sea Kings from Leconfield and Brawdy, and a Wessex from Coltishall ferried survivors from the crash of a Boeing 737 on the M1 at Kegworth in Leicestershire. RAF Mountain Rescue Teams from Stafford and Leeming assisted in the recovery of survivors from the wreckage.

The first female navigators September 1989 - The first RAF female student navigators commence training at RAF Finningley with No 6 Flying Training School. They are FO Wendy Smith, PO Sally Hawkins and PO Anne-Marie Dawe.

29 Nov 1989 - The BAe Harrier II GR7 made its maiden flight at Dunsfold. 34 GR7s are on order for the RAF.

December 1989 - No 42 Basic Flying Course begins at RAF Church Fenton, the first to be trained on the new Tucano T1 trainer.

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